I'm a freelance writer living in Brisbane. I love bushwalking, kayaking, wildlife, history and travel.
Published April 17th 2019
An adventurous bushwalk
I recently did the Ships Stern walking track at Binna Burra with eight fellow bushwalkers. We planned on starting the walk early on a Saturday morning, so decided to camp two nights at Binna Burra camping ground.
I usually manage to avoid getting any leeches on me on a walk because I keep covered and use repellants around the tops of my socks, but a fat one got me on the ankle while I was putting up my tent in my crocs in the dark on Friday night.
We planned to walk clockwise around the 19-kilometre Ships Stern circuit, class 4 walk, but to add on some side trips along the way. A couple of kilometres into the walk I discovered my water bladder had leaked and I had no water. It was my fault for not checking the bladder before setting out. I had filled it at home and wasn't aware it had slowly leaked out on the way down in the car boot. Luckily one of the women gave me a small bottle of extra water she had, which lasted me until we got to a waterfall where I filled up the bladder and put some sterilizing tablets in it.
It was a beautiful walk with lots of different environments - rainforest, palm groves, open eucalypt forest, waterfalls, lots of beautiful coloured fungi and lots of fantastic lookouts with views over the surrounding areas of Egg Rock and Mt Warning.
The circuit commences opposite the road entrance to Binna Burra Mountain Lodge and finishes at the main entrance near the cafe. We set off and headed for our first stop to Lower Ballanjui Falls 5.3 kilometres along the track. On the way, we passed the Yangahla lookout which was 2.5 kilometres into the walk.
After a short rest and snack at the waterfall, we set off again and did all the detours to lookouts along the way. We visited the Koolanbilba Lookout and climbed to the top of the 680-metre high Charraboomba Rock where there were beautiful views over the valleys and hinterland. We then took the track to the Eastern lookouts and visited Milleribah lookout and Gorooburra lookout.
With our side trips, we walked about twenty-four kilometres. It was a very hot day and about two-thirds of the way into the walk one of the men started to get severe leg cramps in his thighs. They were so bad he had to sit down on the track, and he was in a lot of pain. He had been sweating a lot and was dehydrated.
We all got very concerned when the man became very pale and clammy and looked like he was about to faint. For a few minutes, he looked like he was going to lose consciousness and wasn't responding to us. His shirt was very wet with sweat. It was a classic case of dehydration which could have led to heat stress or the more dangerous heat stroke. We sat him in the shade and gave him water, electrolytes and snacks. In hindsight, we should have taken off his saturated shirt to cool him more and bathe him with cool water. Most people didn't have enough water left to do this. We didn't have phone reception but did have a PLB if things got really bad. We sent four strong walkers ahead to get to a phone reception area to inform the Binna Burra lodge and ambulance about the man's condition.
Luckily we had a naturopath and nurse on the walk. When the man came around and was talking again the naturopath gave him some magnesium and other electrolytes, and we all shared some of our water with him as he had been rationing his water. We weren't sure he would be capable of walking out, but after a rest, he recovered enough to walk slowly. The cramps returned a few times and we had to stop and let him sit down. We massaged his thighs and gave him fluids to drink.
He slowly recovered and we set off again slowly. We met up with the four walkers who had gone ahead. They had made contact with the lodge and contacted an ambulance. We were about eight kilometres from Binna Burra at this stage.
We were in phone contact with the police and ambulance. They requested our latitude and longitude. We were worried we wouldn't get out before dark, although we all had head torches in our packs. After we told the ambulance men the man was walking out slowly they said they would wait for us at the gate.
The rest of the walk was fairly uneventful, except for having to jump over a large python on the track. I learnt that pythons have blue tongues. I have seen a lot of pythons but never knew they had blue tongues.
When we finally arrived back at Binna Burra the ambulance men checked the man out. They did all his vital signs and did an electrocardiogram. He felt well by then and decided to stay and camp the night and have dinner at the café with the rest of us, rather than go to the hospital. He was fine after a nice hot shower and food.
I learn lessons on every bushwalk I do. This time I learnt to always check my water supply before I leave for a walk, and that heat stress, cramps and dehydration can occur, even for experienced, fit walkers. This can occur even in a place like Lamington National Park, which is often cooler and wetter than other walking areas in Queensland. The man could have been in serious trouble if he had been walking alone.
I have only ever had severe leg cramps once on a bushwalk. It was years ago when I was climbing Mt Bartle Frere in Far North Queensland. It is Queensland's highest mountain. I had been drinking plenty of water, but was sweating a lot in the tropical heat and was losing electrolytes. It was a long time ago and I don't remember that we carried electrolyte tablets then, but I remember having some salt, which helped.
Looking back on our walk, there were a couple of warning signs the man might have been getting into trouble. Earlier in the walk, he had mentioned to me that he was rationing his water, and he turned back from the climb to the Charraboomba Rock lookout to wait for us. This was unusual for him.
I've seen the man on another walk recently and he told me he didn't mind me writing about our walk as it might help other walkers. He said he made a mistake wearing a heavier shirt than normal because he thought it would be cool in the forest on that walk. On the most recent walk, he was wearing a short-sleeved cool shirt. Dehydration and heat stress can happen to any of us, especially when walking in hot weather. This incident was a good reminder to us all.
The Ships Stern Circuit is a beautiful walk, but it can get hot, so it is probably best to do it in the cooler months. Take plenty of water and electrolytes and wear cool clothes if going on a hot day, as there are sections of the walk out in the open.
Click [LINK=https://parks.des.qld.gov.au/parks/lamington/pdf/lamington-binna-burra-map.pdf]here/LINK] for the map.